The best life is a God First life

Category: Leadership

Even in death, Stephen was Teaching!

As I listened to a lesson by Kyle Rye this past Sunday, the following thoughts came to mind. In all that we do to the end of this worldly life, Christians should strive to follow the example of Stephen and teach God’s Word in all we do down to the very end. Even in death, Stephen was teaching!

Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 7:58-60

In Acts 7:59, we are told: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

  1. Here we see by Stephen’s words and example what faith, trust and commitment entails as he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
    • Stephen did not beg them to stop or try to take back his words but rather; demonstrated by example his belief and trust in God.
  2. With a loud voice Stephen teaches them and us as he identifies their action as Sin
    • In verse 58 we find that Saul, later named Paul was present.
    • In verse 59 whether Stephan’s killers knew at the moment or realized it sometime later, Their actions were NOT Justice, but Sin. Among his last words Stephen called them out on this. Certainly, this did not escape Paul as he later grew in understanding.
  3. In death Stephen teaches forgiveness
    • In verse 60 we find Stephen asking God not to hold this sin against them. In making this statment we learn Steven did not leave this world with a grudge or hating those who were taking his life, but rather; Stephen left demonstrating compassion for their ignorance and love for his murderes, as he appealed to God for them to be forgiven of this sin.

I can only imagine how Paul may have reflected on these memories later in life. How they may have burned in his heart, knowing he could not change what he’d been part of, yet these memories likely became fuel. Heartfelt fuel that helped push him to teach and share Jesus no matter what the worldly consequences may be.

Paul later stated: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

God First!

  • Colossians 3:13
  • 1 John 2:15-17
  • Hebrews 13:14-16
  • Matthew 6:21
  • Mark 16:15

Why would you want to cheat yourself like that?

As I pondered my answer, I realized; this is exactly what we do when we don’t take advantage of opportunities to grow in Christ and build on our relationship with Him.

What happens when we make time to attend as many studies as possible? We draw closer to God, and He draws closer to us; we get to know God and fellow seekers of truth better and our actions demonstrate where our heart’s desire resides.

My heart’s desire once demonstrated my love for; time, eating, tennis, TV, relaxation, fun, laughter, etc. I made time for all these things because my heart’s desire once put them on a pedestal. During that period of life and without realizing it, I was not putting God First, but rather at My convenience.

In a discussion about not attending Sunday bible classes, Worship service, and other growth and edification opportunities such as Sunday evening or midweek bible studies, a friend asked me: Why would you want to cheat yourself like that?

As I thought about his question, I realized the validity of his point. That’s exactly what we do. If I don’t prioritize these opportunities, I’m cheating myself. But, that’s not all; I’m cheating others, starting with my family, those who may follow my lead or depend on me to get them to and from services. So, bottom line, I asked myself, What kind of example am I being?

By not prioritizing my attendance at every opportunity, am I not short-changing family, friends, and myself by not leading us toward spiritual growth? When we don’t attend, we miss out on knowledge, better understanding, fellowship, and growth opportunities. In addition, we miss out on being examples to others. Examples that demonstrate our gratitude, understanding, and belief that God should be first in our lives.

I now look forward to every opportunity to increase my understanding of Scripture and to grow through the uplifting unity of fellow believers by sharing and growing in the truth of Christ with one another.

If you are not attending at every opportunity, I offer this for your consideration…

Why would you want to cheat yourself like that?

God First!

I wrote most of this before the COVID-19 virus, which forced us into our homes to worship online. Yet, the point is still the same. Are we prioritizing our worship time and Bible study? Are we taking advantage of every opportunity for spiritual nourishment? Do our loved ones get to see our commitment by our actions? If not, Why would we want to cheat ourselves like that?

Paths & Highways (Part 1)

My personal journey from a teenager till now involved many turns, curves, pains, peaks, and valleys. Many of my early life choices were enough to make even bystanders dizzy. I would strongly recommend against anyone following most of the roads I traveled in my early days. I started out being taught of the straight and narrow path and started down that path. However; As a youthful adult, I began testing the exit ramps to those wide-open highways; they looked fun and fast. Many on those highways crossed my path, and those on them appeared to be having a great time as they sped by me.

Although I was not hitchhiking, the path I was on sometimes felt slow and lonely; Those highway travelers did not appear to have time for loneliness, which looked appealing. It was during these lonely moments that more travelers seemed to stop with great big smiles on their faces, exuberantly offering me highway rides.

In the beginning, I accepted only a few short rides and found myself missing the peace, comfort, and contentment of that straight and narrow road, however; after a while, the short rides got longer, faster, and the adrenaline surged until eventually, I was navigating those highways myself, rapidly going nowhere fast, almost wholly losing sight of the straight and narrow road I once traveled.

Over a relatively short period of time, I had become one of those highway drivers with the big smiles in a  speedy convertible, offering rides to those I saw on that straight and narrow path. I spent years with the wind blowing through my hair on highways to nowhere, looking as if I was going somewhere fast. I found myself feeling trapped when I thought about it too profoundly, so; I chose Not to reflect.

Eventually, I would offer rides to some on the path I once traveled, and the denial of even the shortest ride reminded me of my early days; I found myself admiring their rejection of my offer. Their words of reasoning piqued my curiosity and helped me realize how confused and lost I had become. After a while, I began to long for the peace, comfort, tranquility, and surety I once had on that narrow path. Finally, I realized getting off those entangled spaghetti highways was necessary as they would eventually lead me into a void of permanent darkness.

It would mean dramatic change on my part, but I knew it was the right choice and began my highway departure. I started my departure with a commitment to change direction, to exit the highways. To get back to that one narrow path to somewhere again. The more I learned what that narrow path was truly all about, the more I questioned why I had ever allowed myself to accept that first highway ride.

I now have great admiration for those few who have stayed true to the narrow path most of their lives and seldom joined as a highway rider or driver; My experiences have taught me that our examples have tremendous trickle-down effects that influence others. So, if we care about family, friends, or people, we need to be mindful of our influence and do our best to serve God as Christ-like examples so that those following our lead will realize, we are going somewhere; we are on a path that leads to a heavenly home with our creator where there are no tears, no sickness or sorrow.

I am thankful for God’s grace and the path he set forward for any of us to accept. For it is by God’s grace through our obedient faith in hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized for the forgiveness of our sins that we can have eternal life.

Matthew 7:13-14, Proverbs 3:6, Proverbs 4:26-27, Matthew 3:3

  • Grace: – Ephesians 2:8, Romans 3:24, Titus 2:11, Acts 15:11
  • Belief/Faith: – Hebrews 11:1, John 8:24, Romans 10:17, Acts 3:19
  • Repentance: – 2 Cor. 7:9-10, Luke 13:3-5, Acts 17:30
  • Confess: – Romans 10:9-10, Matthew 10:32-33, Luke 12:8-9
  • Baptism by immersion for forgivness of sin: – Matthew 16:15-16 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Matt 28:18-20, Ephesians 4:5, Romans 6:3-4, Colossians 2:12, Acts 8:36-39, Mark 1:9-10, John 3:23

Broken hearts and pain, for what?

Our hearts and the hearts of family and friends can be broken, torn apart with sadness and pain by the actions of one alcoholic drinker. One drinker behind the wheel can take a life. One drinker with loose lips can destroy relationships; one drinker, not exercising self-control, can start a fight that ends or lames a life.

To many, drinking is harmless and often associated with socializing, fun times, relaxation, romance, and parties (I used to think this way).

Sip by sip; one loses their ability to react swiftly in emergencies. Many who drink will Never admit they’ve been affected negatively. Instead, they tout, “It’s only one beer or one glass of wine.” They may exclaim, “I don’t get drunk,” or “I function fine on just one or two drinks,” etc. Maybe, just maybe, that’s because they’ve never faced a real emergency when drinking before. A situation where their best was required, and they didn’t have it. Where their reaction was slightly slower, their words not wise, and it led to devastating results. Heartache, pain, lives turned upside down results—unnecessary, avoidable turmoils.

It’s been a while back now since the van of a niece was hit by a drunk driver and flipped: her husband and one of her children with her. At the time, my niece went through much pain, the rest of her family seemingly OK. It’s scary to realize; We could’ve lost them all; they could’ve been horribly injured, maimed for life in some manner, all because of a social drinker. One person who thought they were in control, who drank just enough to impair their ability and cause an accident, An accident that now labels them “a drunk driver.”

I quit drinking alcohol several years ago because I came to this conclusion…

“If there are more reasons not to do something than to do it, then Why do it?”

Wayne R Johnson

There are many logical, biblical, and commonsense reasons not to drink. For me, I started asking myself, why do I need to drink alcohol? I found no good reason! I still have a good time; I still enjoy my friends; I can still be silly and do all of this without alcohol, plus, as a great big bonus, I get to remember more about the fun I had.

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

Philippians 1:27 ESV

God First!

The Joy of seeing our Children Lead

It is incredibly uplifting and heartwarming to see our children being led to lead and serve. Many youths from our congregation and others participate each year in a non-profit program called “Lads 2 leaders”(L2L). Recently, several of our youth attended this convention where they demonstrated the leadership skills they’ve been developing. 

They participated in Scripture reading, leading prayers, leading songs, giving talks on specific subjects. Reciting scripture from memory, Bible bowls, etc. 

We are blessed to have so many dedicated parents. Parents of very small children through high school seniors are very involved in the training and encouragement of their youth to work hard and prepare for their presentations.

The Covid situation created hardships and challenges to the L2L conventions the last two years making it nearly impossible for spectators to witness and encourage these young leaders but hopefully, this will improve in the near future.

It is an incredibly joyful experience to see and hear these children as they learn to lead, understand and grow through the study of God’s Word. To watch them take action to present and Share God’s word according to God’s Word.

If you would like to learn more or help support the efforts hear is the link to their home page. https://www.lads2leaders.com/

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